Independence Day in St. Joseph, MI
Under a canopy of moody skies and slim, pointed trees there is a summer tradition thousands of people keep each year. They begin by streaming onto the beaches by 8 in the morning; toting umbrellas, tents, tubes, sunscreen, coolers, books and swimsuits in every pop of color, and set their stake for the day along miles of shoreline. Kids run screaming in and out of the water and ice cream makes a brisk sale.
The location is St. Joseph and the setting is the white sands beaches of Lake Michigan. It is a little known destination to much of the world, because isn't Michigan that place where they poisoned water? (Pure Michigan does not extend to Flint). St. Joseph is full of charming streets and shops, and hosts of little beach front properties.
Sailing is, of course, a popular hobby around the lake.
THE BEACHES OF ST. JOSEPH, MI
Any beach in the St. Joseph area is a great pick for most days of the summer, but for 4th of July we often choose Tiscornia because it is practically under the fireworks (a few years ago I actually felt some kind of ashy flakes float down on me), it's less crowded and there is access to the lighthouse pier from there.
Silver Beach would be my next pick for how close it is to all the shops and restaurants of St. Joseph. You have access to downtown St Joe and wonderful shops such as these ones below.
Silver Beach has a splash pad and carousel for the kids and, surprise surprise, plenty of adults hop in for the fun too. I may or may not have done both activities.. several.. times.
HOW TO HAVE A SUPER TIME ON A LAKE MICHIGAN BEACH
First, go with friends or family. This is non-negotiable. Going to a beach alone may be ok now and then, but beaches are most fun with people. Then, take things along like an inflatable boat and frisbee (both inexpensive) and you'll be well on your way to a fun time.
This boat, for example, I've heard it cost less than $40 and provided fun dry land runs, a place to sit, and mini sea voyages.
Then, make sure to provide food. If you go to Tiscornia it is at least a mile away from most restaurants and plus, beach picnics are one of the rare pleasures of life.
Ok, I'm kidding about the fish. That was someone else's catch, though it would've been a great idea for a beach bonfire. For our purposes we had slightly less fresh, but delicious and satisfying foods.
This photo wouldn't do to be hash tagged "#picnicinthepark, #instafood or #pictureperfect" but it was heartening food. Besides, who needed styled food when there was cuteness overload everywhere?
Pretty much every way we looked was something beautiful to see or fun to watch. This para glider came swooping in over Tiscornia and the lighthouse as we were eating dinner.
St. Joseph Lighthouse
The Very Introverted Family.
Another cameo of the boat.
When the sun sets over Lake Michigan, the fireworks follow shortly. Soon after the cheesecake we noticed this group of kids trail out into the water with sparklers - best idea ever. Everywhere people were shooting off anticipatory fireworks.
INDEPENDANCE DAY IN ST. JOSEPH, MI
The fireworks over the beaches in St. Joe aren't the most spectacular to be found, but even so this place has remained my favorite for close to a decade now. For 4th of July it can hardly be beat because it's an experience that satisfies: a beautiful place, water as far as the eye can see, sun and sand, and the colorful culture that surrounds a beachfront town.
We find a good spot in the dunes just above the beach and as the last fingers of light die out of the sky, wait. At 10:30, precisely according to the 2017 schedule, they begin. They range from bright pops of red, blue, and smiley faces, to explosions of gold dropping from the stars. It is as if the sky has become the inverted canvas for a dimensional experience of art, fire, and vibrations and we are somehow part of this larger experience of the freedom fought for through gunpowder and blood.
I think, it's fitting we celebrate independence with fireworks. The start to the official United States was through gunpowder and fire, and the belief that "all men are created equal." A week ago, on the shores of Lake Michigan, the melting pot of cultures celebrated on the beach what people long before us understood well.
USEFUL INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO ST. JOSEPH
Silver Beach, Tiscornia Park, and Jean Klock Park require an $7-10 parking fee depending on the day, with season passes available for most of those coming in at around $20-$35.
Check out this page of Airbnb listings for great places to stay.
There's a great five 'n' dime (G&M) store on State St. with every kind of plastic toy and beach-going need. If you have kids but prefer not to travel with extra paraphernalia this is a fantastic place to stop and stock up before heading out.
I recommend an umbrella or some kind of tent. The sun in the north can get surprisingly intense and it's nice to get out of it now and again.
Cell service gets spotty, and an external battery is grand to keep your phones or devices going. **
A paddle boarding deal I plan to use soon. Anyone in?
P.S. If you do go, remember to tell me about it! I love hearing about when people experience my favorite places.
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